Category Archive: Comic Review

Jul 29 2014

Notes for a War Story – Gipi

Gipi tells a make believe story about someone making a movie about those who fought in a war (which Gipi made up for a make believe country) in such as way that it might as well all been true (and is probably based on the Yugoslavian civil war). We follow the lives of a group of kids–and they really are just kids–as a war shatters their lives and leads them into a world of crime and back to war again, which is Gipi’s ways of pointing out that the two are really the same thing. The art is unusual, very sketchy with a splash of ugly color, and not something that I would not normally care for, but then again I normally don’t like war stories where everything is based on something fake to make a statement, yet everything works together so well here that I got sucked in. Oddly, I will also be the first to say that the story is a little slow and boring at times, but, again, that’s what life in war can be: incredibly dangerous one second coupled with periods of mundane nothing. I liked it, and considering you can read it in a very short time, I strongly suggest you do. [Note: My thumb is not actually part of the cover.]

Jul 28 2014

Girl Genius: (Book 8) Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones – Phil & Kaja Foglio

For absolutely no good reason this volume was not written up by me and instead I skipped to book 9. So here it is far after the fact: The heir to the mad scientist family that at various times was loved and feared throughout Europe, has returned to her ancestral home and the (once) all powerful, mechanical castle. Unless she can use her (mad) scientific genius to get the castle to acknowledge her lineage and fix the castle’s defenses, her enemies shall destroy everything. This section of the series (where Agatha is in Mechanicsburg) becomes the longest of the series as the story will continue in this setting for many volumes to come. Is that a good thing? Well, it depends. I do love the story and this one is still great and the setting still exciting and new. 

Jul 26 2014

Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch – Neil Gaiman

A stand in for Neil Gaiman tells the story of going out with friends and the unusual events that come out of what at first seems to be a very dull, mundane evening. Not a bad little tale, although I’m pretty sure I had read it before so, apparently, it didn’t stay with me very long. I do HATE the plot devise of an author writing a story about a character that clearly is the author–what? as an author you don’t have what it takes to come up with a character that isn’t you?! 

Jul 25 2014

Batman Incorporated (vol. 1-2): Demon Star & Gotham’s Most Wanted – Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Ug, more from the “new 52″ to disappoint. What a sloppy comic that introduces us to this idea that the crime fighter, Batman, is using his money and influence to assemble a world wide network of people who work for Batman to solve crime and protect the innocent, only that doesn’t work out very well and the daughter of a villain (and former lover of the Batman) seeks vengeance through the use of the son they had together. Explosions, action, betrayal, pain and suffering, people die, aargh, oh wow, etc., but there are so many characters in this story who I both do not know anything about or care about in the slightest, action that is motivated by stuff I am vaguely told about, and plot that is just F/X on a still page. So, what I’m saying is that while Morrison is considered a god to so many, I find nothing redeeming about this comic as there is really nothing here. “A tale told by an idiot…” 

Jul 23 2014

Batman (vol 1): The Court of Owls – Scott Snyder

Somehow unknown to the world’s smartest man and greatest detective in history, the vigilante, the Batman, a group of people calling themselves the Court of Owls have really run his home city of Gotham for generations. Why? How? And more importantly, why do they decide now is the time to come out and exert their power and make themselves known to the Batman? I have no idea as not much really happens in this comic except that the Batman kind of gets stomped, which I suppose is comic talk for “wow, how tough!” Wow, how about explaining some motivation? The only thing that really interested me was the very brief exposition that the newly orphaned, pre-Batman, Bruce, actually did some detective work to search for the Court of Owls as a kid. That actually sounds like it could have been a fun tale. Instead, we have this with art that makes about four characters all look like Bruce, and a motiveless mystery. So much for the new 52. 

Jul 22 2014

Heck – Zander Cannon

Hector discovers that his house has an entrance to Hell. Naturally, he opens a business wherein he goes to visit damned souls and get information for those they left behind. This story is simply drawn and, in a way, simply told (in that the exposition given in chapter one could have been three graphic novels, it was so flush with interesting material). There were elements I did not like in this tale, for example, Hell is based on Dante’s Catholic version so probably everyone you ever met is going there; and there were elements I thought were missing, for example tons of backstory about Hector’s earlier visits to Hell; yet when it is all said and done, Cannon wants to tell a very specific story about loss, redemption, and false appearances and in that he does a nice job. 

Jul 19 2014

Americus – MK Reed

Ok, here’s the pitch: This kid–Neil–is growing up in a crappy little town in middle America. Raised by his divorced mom, he struggles to fit in but his best/only friend (who is gay) is sent off to military school because of their interest in a fantasy series. Now this book series starts a controversy and some of the town folks want to ban it, but reading is like the only thing that keeps Neil sane, so what’s going to happen?! Yes, it does sound like a great pitch and deals with a lot of controversial issues of book banning and the role of libraries, etc., and Neil growing into himself, but the pitch and the actual story are not the same thing and the heavy handed book banning issue, Neil’s outcast status, and the idea that all these young guys are interested in reading a series with a female protagonist (teen girls will read about a boy hero but not the other way around), just isn’t very interestingly written despite the interesting idea. Sorry, it should have been up my alley but wasn’t. 

Jul 18 2014

Nowhere Men

Imagine a world where scientists are revered like rock stars. Scientists Ellis, Grimshaw, Dade, and Strange are the equivalent of the Beatles, not only in their popularity with the public but also in their genius and—ultimately—their inability to remain together.

Interweaving faux advertisements, books, and magazine articles with the comic pages, writer Eric Stephenson shows us how thoroughly this alternative Fab Four have affected the cultural mindset. The story is compelling, but I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. While I certainly appreciate not having all my plotlines telegraphed, I had the nagging feeling that this could be one of those books that has a great set up but crashes and burns in the third act. Stephenson focuses so heavily on the personalities of the main characters that he leaves little room to show any actual science—I’m not entirely sure what they’ve actually accomplished much less why they rate the “super genius” label. Similarly, although artist Nate Bellegarde does some fine character work, his settings and backgrounds are sparse at best. Where are all the gadgets and, you know, science stuff? How is this world any different from our own? Is it only the choice of pop icon?

Nevertheless, Nowhere Men 1: Fates Worse Than Death is certainly worth a read, and I’m happy to see it alongside the other amazing work Image Comics is pumping out in its (gasp!) third decade. I’ll certainly seek out book two.

Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson (w), Nate Bellgarde (a), Jordie Bellaire (c)

Jul 16 2014

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 4: Materia – Thomas Siddell

Finally get to add to my prior post on Gunnerkrigg Court with this fourth collection to an amazing web comic series. I explained the premise behind this wonderful comic in the original post, so I don’t want to rehash here, and only wish to say that the story is still coming along nicely and I feel more confident that there is a complete story being worked on–which was my only real concern. I will say that there is a lot of sexual activity that is hinted at in this volume which might make it a bit much for some of the really young readers (in other words, I no longer feel comfortable promoting the title to my nieces), and I am concerned that too many characters are falling in love with their soul mates and pairing up into couple that will be together forever, which, if memory serves, is EXACTLY how high-school works (and let’s face it, it’s really a tale about high-schoolers, and the generation’s prior high-schoolers (perhaps one of my most hated plot devices, because we all went to high school with the children of people who went to that high school, and who also coupled up, really!?)). If Siddell get’s back to the main story by cutting down on this romance element some, I think all will be well. 

Jul 12 2014

The Harlem Hellfighters – Max Brooks

I heard that the very smart son of the famous (and also very smart) comedian wrote a comic to celebrate the achievements of the most decorated group of Americans of WWI–just in time for the anniversary of that terrible event–who just so happen to be a group of black soldiers: segregated, set-up to fail, and discriminated against, despite their dedication to helping our country. I was sure that Brooks would do a good job. This title, with art by Caanan White, was incredibly disappointing. The story would have been much better served to simply recount events rather than fictionalize them as the reality is amazing and the fictionalizing does nothing. Brooks presents absolutely no characters or personalities of any sort and White’s illustrations are horrible in that the b/w run together making the images difficult to see and filled with gratuitous violence (and yes, I am very aware it is a war story). This should have been a cake walk to produce a great graphic novel on such a topic; it feels like it actually took effort to produce such a poor work. 

Jul 10 2014

Captain America vol. 4 – Ed Brubaker

After more than 100 issues, Brubaker’s run of the super soldier who embodies America comes to an end. I didn’t manage to read all the issues in order, and not even sure if I managed to catch them all, but in any event I will firmly declare that Brubaker’s was the best Cap writer I’ve ever read. It was so good to take him away from cosmic threats and have him deal with terrorists and the like with a focus on interesting plots and characters. This is not to suggest his run was flawless, for example, this closing volume about Cap trying to deal with the machination of a political commentator bent on causing chaos is a great idea and came out extremely poorly, not really presenting much of a story at all. Not the best way to end a great time, yet these things happen. 

Jul 06 2014

Daredevil (vol 6-7): Lowlife & Hardcore – Brian Michael Bendis

Thank goodness these collections of stories about the blind but super-powered vigilante had lots of boring talking and very little action or it might have been a shock to my system. I was glad to see Bendis use such D list villain like the Owl and Typhoid Mary, but so little happens in his stories it is killing me. Ok, volume 7 was a little better as there were fight scenes to break up the pages of conversation (even if people would never speak like that), but why does Bullseye have to look like the crappy movie version of the character and wasn’t the Kingpin blind a minute ago? Why does he look like the fat Brando? Why does the art radically change in issue #50? Why does it take 4 trades to tell a story that would be long winded in 3? 

Jul 05 2014

Captain America: No Escape & The Trail of Captain America – Ed Brubaker

You might want to read Cej’s review here although I have a slightly different take, mainly because I enjoyed it more. The son of Nazi Baron Zemo wants to mess with former and current Captain America by forcing the the new Captain/Winter Soldier/Buckey to face the wrongs he’s done and his clear inferiority to his mentor. Of course Zemo could simply kill him, but where’s the fun in that? In The Trail of Captain America, our hero has to deal with the legal fallout of Zemo and the Red Skull’s daughter (Sin) as they continue to mess with the Captain. They are interesting stories with good focus of heroes and villains, but I feel that it is leading up to something that hasn’t happened yet, but should happen soon. 

Jul 03 2014

Daredevil (vol 4-5): Underboss & Out – Brian Michael Bendis

Cej lent me some of his trades about the blind lawyer slash vigilante with heightened senses. Sadly, these should have been skipped. Trying to be like Frank Miller before he went totally nuts, Bendis has DD outed, not to the Kingpin but to the world and now he has to deal with the fallout. These books are Bendis at his worst: panels chock filled with monologues that go on for pages without interruption, about a dozen guest appearances of villains and heroes that amount to little at best, and the fact that in these two trades nothing really happen. These shouldn’t be called “The Man Without Fear!” but the books without action. 

Jul 01 2014

Mystique – Brian K Vaughan

I was disappointed with this first collection about the mutant shape changer assassin who gets forced to work for her do good nemesis Professor X. The stories aren’t anything special and the character development you’d expect with a book focusing mainly on one character is lacking. It also doesn’t help that all the tasks mystique is required to do could be done better and faster by Professor X and his mental powers to control minds.

Jun 28 2014

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear – Urban Jungle – David Liss

Wait, what? So The former king of the formerly rich and powerful African nation who formerly had super-powers has come to NYC to “find himself” and help the blind Daredevil (former lawyer, former gang leader, and formerly possessed by a demon) find himself by replacing him as vigilante of hell’s kitchen area of Manhattan (PS hardly the worst neighborhood in NYC). The “new” Daredevil tackles a crime lord called Vlad the Impaler who has some sort of electrical power, with rather mixed results. Oh, and Luke Cage shows up. Whatever.

Jun 13 2014

Any Empire – Nate Powell

Yes, there is some wonderful artwork here and Powell means well trying to present an almost silent narrative about some small-town kids (Lee, Sarah, and Purdy) who grow up together (and apart) and how they deal with concepts of power and violence, but this is another example of an artist who is focused on a dream-like quality to his story at the expense of, well, his story. I shouldn’t have to say “huh?” while reading and really wish the comics industry would spend more time editing work so that art can have meaning (or maybe comprehension is the proper word). This could have been very poignant, and sadly it is not. 

Jun 02 2014

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier – Ed Brubaker

I was disappointed by this tale of Captain America, perhaps because Rogers isn’t Captain America anymore and his quest to discover if the grandson of the scientist that made him a super soldier is making more super soldiers just wasn’t all that super. Feels like Brubaker really phoned this one in. 

May 23 2014

Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics – Margreet de Heer

So there is something other than pot bars in the Netherlands, and it is this comic. De Heer attempts to give an introduction to Western philosophy and throw in some modern ideas as well, but it does not really work and she admits to getting lost as to what to do next a couple of time in the comic. Nicely illustrated and well colored by her husband, Yiri, the comic falls short as to really presenting much as to the history of philosophy or how/why it might be useful (great first draft, though).  

May 15 2014

Wonder Woman: Land of the Dead – Greg Rucka

Wonder Woman goes to the land of the dead to retrieve Hermes. Yes, there is a lot more to this story than that, including the fact that the Amazon Princess can’t see after blinding herself in order to fight Medusa (ever hear of simply closing your eyes?), but this is just typical of a Rucka story: it’s a solid story, yet I just don’t care. Sorry.

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